Reg Naveen

A torn out page from the dictionary of dreams...


Greetings Adventurer!
Quite some time has passed since your final expedition, but new information has surfaced that we here at the Adventurers Club feel will leave you on the cusp of return. The wreck of the Julianne Rose has been discovered. And if that is not tantalizing enough news, the Rose Diamond itself is quite possibly among the wreckage. We know you spent your career in search of it, so we thought you might be interested in one, final adventure. It would be good to see you out on the seas once more, old friend.

                                                                                               Regards,
                                                                                   J.W. Hemingway


            Ray Copeland’s failing grades in English faded from memory when he read the fake adventure letter. He bought into the hope and optimism so much that he almost forgot that he’d written it. Would it revitalize his father? The elder Copeland had always loved old adventure tales, cryptic puzzles, and treasure maps.
            “Now what in the hell do you think this means?” Bill Copeland asked. “I could build a house out of all the paper these scam artists have sent me trying to get me to buy this or sell that.”
            “Dad, I don’t think they’re really asking for anything,” Ray said. “Isn’t that someone you know? Sounds like it could be some fun.”
It was a story of a wreck in the Baltic Sea on CNN that prompted Ray to surprise his father. The stories of his dad’s adventures with “war buddy,” John Wayne Hemingway, were legendary during Ray’s childhood. The raging intensity from each tale could have melted the paint right off of the family’s living room walls when the Old Man got going. The stories could not have been any more fantastic, and it didn’t even bother little Raymond that he was certain they weren’t true. It meant the world to him that his father would invent something just to entertain him.
            And now he hoped to return the favor.
            Based on the opaque veil of skepticism on his father’s face, the scheme wasn’t going well.
            “You know, Dad, there’s a lot going on, none of it’s easy. Maybe it’s a blessing that you heard from your old pal, Hemingway.”
            The paper and envelope took flight toward the trashcan as Bill sat down at the counter separating him from his son.
            “Do you have any idea? Do you know what it’s like to know, to know with great certainty that every thing that you know is about to vanish? Every memory, every lesson…gone. Into the air.  All of my dreams, poof! Gone. They don’t keep records of that kind of thing for me to just go and refresh myself with. Do you know that? No. You don’t. And I’m glad you don’t. I wouldn’t wish this upon Hitler himself, may he rot in the flames of seven hells.”
            “It can’t be easy, Dad. I know that. I can’t pretend to know what you’re going through, but I do know it’s hard. I just thought that maybe a few of your dreams could be revisited in that letter. And I also know, if this moment is all I have with you, then, well, it’s got to be enough. I’ll do whatever I can for that.”
            Ray’s hands shook now, feeling as if that tension was on its way back. With a firm hand, Bill reached across the cold white counter to rest his son’s hand from shaking.
            “I know son. That is fantastic. It truly means the world to me.”
“I don’t appreciate being scammed though,” Bill said as he walked over to retrieve the letter. He folded the paper back up and returned it to its envelope, slamming it down on the counter that separated them.
            “Lucky for us this is a verified letter from The Adventurers Club. Well, come on. We’re going to have to crack the code before we ever find the combination to the safe. There’s no sense in them diving down there for that thing without it,” he said.
Reg Naveen

Billy and Lucy on Raccoons and Song Interpretation

The newspapers will likely say that the raccoon had it coming. From my perspective, he really sacrificed himself for the good of mankind. Or at least, Billy-kind.

But that’s not a good place to start the story.

And neither is Lucy, the lovely, phambostic, smarter than smartly, British girl that I’m proud to call my, well, Third-date-friend. She’s more of something you lean in and whisper in someone’s ear hole, well after you’ve already captured his or her attention.

No. It all started with a song. ‘Quixotic Muffin Jam’ was a kind of cyber-punk/folk number. I’d say, “you had to be there,” but where there is, would still be a mystery to us.

“This tune is totally mental, like, almost enough to not be mental,” Lucy said. “Know what I mean?”

“I do,” I said.

Though I did not.

“Oh, that is such a tremendous lyric, Billy. It totally takes me back to –“

“Right? It does, I think,” I said, just trying to keep up.

“There’s this place over in –“

“Yes, I totally know it,” I continued, further digging myself into a pit of well-intentioned fakery.

“It reminds me of there, which of course, my love, makes me think of –“

“How could it not?”

I was done for.

In truth, I had no flerkin idea what she was talking about.  As it relates to song interpretation and Lucy, all I knew was that there was a song and a Lucy. And Lucy is luxurious, my hands were on her hips, her lips were near my ear, and my ear covers a hole that would reveal to onlookers that there is no brain inside of my melon if they cared to look.

“You’re my most favorite duck,” she said.

“Oh, that, I do know.”

I didn’t know that either. My confidence tends to come and flow like a soda that spilled out of a wine glass it wasn’t intended to be captive of.

“What do you say that I go home and feed Mr. Spinkers, wash the Billy off of my face, put on an outfit that I just now started fitting into, and we’ll meet back up at that place. It’s amazing. You’ll love it. Then, perhaps, if you’re a good duck, we can work on getting those lips back on this face.”

“I like that face. And if your face is at that place, I could see myself there. I can picture it now. Well, your face at least.”

“Mr. Wylde, what am I to do with you?”

“Hey, you know I’m game for anything but voodoo.”

“Is that true?”

“I have no idea. But I am just realizing I left my medication somewhere.”

--

“If I know anything, I’d say you’re lost, young man,” Raccoon* said to me as I collapsed by the dumpster.

When you have the super powers of certain mental illnesses, raccoons and other woodland creatures often become very talkative. I had a dear friend in the circus when I was a young Billy. Hell of a guy, that lion.

“Well, between you and me, I may never have been found. There’s no map that contains Billy Wylde, Mr. Raccoon, sir.”

“You’re here, and that’s as good as place as any. I have it on good authority that the vessel you’re leaning on contains a half-eaten sandwich platter. A half a platter is better than two empty platters.”

“That’s some dodgy math, Raccoon.”

“All I’m saying is, why be anywhere other than here, exactly where you are?”

“Because she’s there. Though I have no idea where there is, I’ve been out looking for her special place fore hours. All I know is that she is the most vanktantious girl I’ve known. I sometimes catch her sighing at me. Not like in a disappointed way, either. It’s more of a, ‘well this’ll do’, kind of way. I don’t think anything has made me feel as special as that kind of settling.”

“That girl sounds like your uneaten sandwich platter. What receptacle did you leave her in? I have a far-reaching family, and I’d be happy to put the word out that this girl is in someone’s trash.”

“I hope she’s not in the trash. She’s just in a special place. A place special to her at least. I pretended I knew exactly where she was talking about it so that she wouldn’t think I was a fricklindube.”

“I’m sorry, a-what-did-you-say?”

“Doesn’t matter. I am one. She’s too good for me. I’m like the cheese in the back of the refrigerator that you thought sounded good, but then left it to grow weird things in it because you never really wanted it to begin with.”

“Yes, yes. Let’s come back to that moldy cheese, shall we? Do you have any idea where this place special to this girl might be? Did she leave the slightest hint?”

“Oh, I got a hint alright. Some song. Called, ‘Quixotic Muffin Jam’. Like I have the brain to truly interpret a song.  What was  I not thinking?”

“I see, muffins as well. Fascinating.”

“This is probably the end of the Billy and Lucy Timeless Adventure Show. I might as well head home and forget it ever existed, which, it likely didn’t. I have a strange way of facsimileing corncobs out of nothingness.”

“Yes, yes, indeed. I was just about to say. Go home, young Billy. You will find your love there. Or somewhere. The important thing to remember is that you take your trash out this evening. Perhaps something in the way of the aforementioned cheese, muffin, and corncob? Yes. That will do nicely. All of your problems will be there. In that refuge bin. I like it. I’m glad we’ve come to this decision.”

There was something oddly both correct and wrong about that raccoon.

--

Songs are weird. You can love a song, and still have no idea what it’s about. It just hops up and down inside of your head, bouncing off of memories, and dreams, and whatever knowledge you have actually acquired, and just makes itself at home; a rambunctious brain-guest, but a pleasant one still.

“I can tell you’re deep in thought when you have your, ‘I’m deep in thought’ look going, my dearest duck,” Lucy said as she crawled through my bedroom window.

“Whoa there, ambixious and delicious, what are you doing here?”

“Your flat mate Claude has the deadbolt fastened, so I wasn’t getting in that way. So here I am. Who says fat girls can’t sneak into houses?”

“But you’re here?”

“You are quite the detective. Add that to the bounty of reasons why I’m decidedly fond of you.”

“But I left you hanging. At that place. I just –“

“I found your meds. They were in my car. I figured you weren’t going anywhere without them. So, as the Knightess that I am, I’ve been out looking for you. And now I’ve found you. When did you get in?”

“A few minutes ago. I’m sorry if I smell like trash.”

“One of your finer qualities, I assure you.”

“So you, you’re not upset? I had no idea what that song meant to you.”

“That’s okay duck. It’s just song. But you, you’re just a Billy. Just a flamtastic, beautiful, lanky, charming Yank, that I happen to be rather fond of. I’d much rather hear your voice, wherever it is, than any song, at any time. “

“I love it when you use my words.”

As promised, faces were covered in kisses. Words, both real and not-so-real, were whispered in nearby earholes. For a date that never happened, it was the best 3rd date in history.

Oh, yeah, and the raccoon story I promised? I saw the cops carting him off of our side street for stealing trash. I like to think he was making sure we were doing al lright, but he had muffins in his eyes.


*For this performance, Raccoon is performed by Mr. Stephen Fry
Reg Naveen

A Guide to Self Acceptance -- A Four Act Exploration

Act One: A Quick Stabbing

“You know son, in my entire life, not one of my friends or family has liked you,” my mother said, in the same casual tone you might use when telling a stranger the time of day.

And look at the time; Jab-to-the-heart o’clock. I should have set an alarm.

It wasn’t even a heated discussion, but more of a, “catching up on current events,” sort of thing.  But then who would hold back such a wonderful bon mot? Most reasonable folks, I'd imagine.

In a way, I sort of wish there had been some venom behind it. Perhaps if she intended to hurt me, I could just write it off as a bit of spiteful maneuvering. There was pity on her breath though, a lubricant that made the words easy for one to say, but quite violent to hear.

It was like a near-empty bottle who’s final drop sails down the pirates's throat, only to plunder his harbor at sun’s last breath.

Ahoy.

What’s so wrong with me? I like to consider myself a decent guy. Some others do as well. But there’s a whole lot of “everyone else” out there that I’ve never been a real favorite of. I’m a little different, sure. I can be a grilled cheese with cheese on the outside. I’ve been listening to a lot the Oscar Peterson Trio. But I’ve never murdered anyone. I’ve never even been wrongly accused of murder. Is everyone meant to be the same? Is it possible to dig deep down to your core, tear it all down, and rebuild whole new person?

No. All grilled cheese doesn’t need to be the same.

--

Act II: The Purpose of Socks

They say you, “can’t impress everyone.” Makes sense, but then I do question why we all desperately try to fit in all of the time. I vividly remember the last time my partner came down with something wicked in the lung. I dashed off to the pharmacy at who knows what hour, and you could say that my socks didn’t quite match.  That’s if you wanted to put it mildly. I couldn’t miss the girl behind the counter fail to hold back a hefty snicker. But why? I’m a practical fellow. Man needs to run to store, feet are pre-attached but require shoes, and shoes are wildly incomplete without socks. Done. I got to the store. My lady-love rested comfortably that night.

But I was still judged. And yes, I know, it was a miniscule moment that only made me regret EVERY DECESION I’VE EVER MADE, for maybe a day or two. The point really hit home though: If we know we can’t please, or impress everyone, why do we so rarely allow our guard to lower? Why do we insist on putting that veneer up for absolutely everyone at all times? Are you even comfortable floating a noxious breeze from your butt region if your spouse is around? Perhaps only you and God/Buddha/Luke Skywalker are aware of your occasional flatulence?

Not likely.

Everyone knows that when you wear that slight grimace and twist your hip, that you’ve got gas. That fake smile you adorn yourself with is like Clark Kent while your rear end is screaming, “Hey! I’m Superman,” with a fart that likely destroyed Krypton.

Act III: Is All the Approval Seeking Worth It?

No.

Act IV: Goodbye to You

Dear Potential Critic,

I can’t even say that I’m sorry. I refuse, outright. How could I even begin to apologize for my mere existence? Exactly 0.00% of the people who have graced the outermost layer of this planet were actually given the option of being born.

That’s no people.

So if someone dares to simply appear in public in a manner that offends your sensitive notions of fashion and decency, remember: they didn’t get to choose to be themselves. So the least they should be offered is the opportunity to make the most of who they are, as they see fit. Thus, it seems that each of us here have a right to the lives that we lead. That means mismatching socks. That means old timey jazz while cleaning the house. Any weird thing that a person chooses is but a cookie in the cupboard of their own happiness. I say let them eat it. Eat it!

Regards,

Whoever I Choose to Be
 
Reg Naveen

Haven

Is it sad that I time my day around when UPS drops of my packages from Amazon? Most likely. I don’t really even need to think about it much. A cave of empty purchases has grown thick and high on the grounds of what we used to call, “the office”.

I can’t even keep track of all of the purchases. Each must have had a purpose; there must have been something I was trying to heal when the credit card information was sent into the ether. Perhaps there’s a mechanism inside of my clockworks that’s run faulty? My machine, oiled and ready, maybe is not quite the super slick, space age wonder of modern mechanics that it used to be. Fancy words or not, there’s a crack in the dam I’m trying to plug up, as if I’m blind to the fact that there’s 10 million pounds of water pressure on the other side.

Today’s package, a new copy of King’s Nightmares and Dreamscapes, though likely a delight in paperback, will hold back no such waters.

I carefully remove it from its protective cardboard vessel and welcome it to it’s new home. There’s a fine looking spot open just between Stanley Kubrick’s biography and The Phantom of the Opera. A nice little hole. Of course there is.

What would become of me if I simply chose to leave the space between said books open? Would the water barrel its way through? I doubt I’ll find out. Purchase, wait, open, welcome home, fill space. Then do it once more.

That’s when the bookcase gives way. The dam shatters with a wicked roar, and the water takes me over.

The lack of caring in the wave is unavoidable, much like the force of the rushing water knocking me violently, this way and that. The books, films, and trinkets I took such great displeasure in building up, become vengeful ships as the raging water rockets them at me.

I gasp for breath; I fruitlessly fight against the current. What was I trying to fill? Which empty space could I have crammed something into to avoid this drowning?
The answers are as present as oxygen as I’m dragged under once more.

I lose a bit of myself, and the world loses a son it knew it never really needed. I think the raging waters carried me for hours, but perhaps it’s only mere moments. Any semblance of normal measurement drifted away with the sky when I hit the ocean floor.

“Welcome home,” the Jaguar Shark chooses to say.

“Home? Here?” I reply.

“Of course. The waters always lead you where you’re meant to end up. This is it for you.”

She is something I’ve never seen before, and yet, I know her like the well-worn path to a childhood home.

“What…what happened to me?”

“If you truly need the answer, I can tell you. You gave in. You allowed the void to overcome you.”

“It’s so peaceful. Have I died? Is this the end?”

“If you’re here, were you ever truly living? I’m sorry. I’m not usually this cryptic my boy, but you look rather bewildered. Come, you’ll enjoy it here.”

“But how can I be breathing underwater?”

“Do you know how you were breathing on dry land?”

“Well, no. It was automatic I guess.”

“And there’s your answer. It’s automatic, I guess.”

Things only get stranger when a bear, in some form of royal armor swims to meet the Jaguar Shark.

“Your highness, the ceremony awaits,” he says.

“All things do,” she responds.

As they float away together, I’m much more than bewildered, actually. I find myself in a complete and working city. It would even seem out of place if we weren’t at the bottom of the sea. There…there are Merfolk here. And all arrangements of typical ground animals. This place, it’s almost like an amalgam of things from all other worlds.

I don’t know if I’ve ever felt like I belong anywhere more than here. Oddly enough, the breath coming into my lungs is much more welcoming than wherever I’ve travelled previously.

I feel fulfilled.

--

“Yes. He’s unconscious. I need an ambulance here now,” the wife cried into the phone.

“I don’t know! He was fine. He hasn’t been sick. He’s on a new anti-depressive, but, I just don’t know. Please…”

--

I love this place. There, I said it. It’s not easy to admit that you’ve drifted into paradise. At least, not when you’re so used to being buried by fear and guilt and whatnot. This place rocks.  There are no limits to anything. The spires seem to go on for days. The food? The food is amazing. They have my mom’s old lasagna here. And flimsen. Do you even know what flimsen is? I didn’t. It’s a Mer-dish. Those fish people sure can cook.

“Are you quite ready for the ceremony?” Ziss asks.

“Ziss, I’ve never been more ready for anything in my life. It’s amazing how you welcome every new visitor like this.”

“That’s a part of what makes Haven so grand. It’s been that way since I was a wee little kitten. If one wasn’t welcomed with the highest of honors, why else would one choose to stay?”

“Exactly. And who’d want to leave anyway? I finally feel at peace.”

“Lovely. Let us go then sir. Everyone is waiting.”

I can’t help but let out a sigh. “Alright, let’s do this.”

--

The attending ER doctor was both the first and last person Brian’s wife wanted to see. Heaven and hell could dance equally upon his breath. She wasn’t prepared for which way that particular tide might roll.

“I’m sorry Mrs. Covich. We tried everything we could, but your husband didn’t make it. Did you say that you found him in the shower, or tub?”

“No, he was in his office, holding a book. He was slumped over like a…”

“It just doesn’t make any sense. Your husband had enough water in his lungs to be a drowning victim. Perhaps he had gone for a swim?”

“No. He would never do that. He’s afraid of water.”



 
Reg Naveen

Mr. Fox on Cinema





               INT. FOX LIVING ROOM. DAY 

               A LUSH ANTIQUE CHAIR SITS QUAINTLY IN THE CORNER. A WELL-TO
               DO FOX SITS CROSS-LEGGED, AN ORNATE PIPE IS PERCHED INTENTLY
               BETWEEN HIS LIPS, THOUGH IT IS NOT LIT. HE CHECKS HIS WATCH
               WITH SOME SURPRISE WHEN THE YOUNG SNAPPING TURTLE APPROACHES. 

                                   MR. FOX
                         Oh, hello. I wasn't sure if you
                         were going to make it. The field
                         has been overrun by gnats. You
                         weren't bit, were you?

                                   AMBROSE
                         No sir.

                                   MR. FOX
                         Good. Gnats are the scourge of the
                         forest. Anyone who says otherwise
                         shouldn't be trusted. Remember
                         that. Still, I'm glad you made it. 

               The well-mannered Fox stands, gesticulating in such a way to
               put on an air of wisdom, that he may, or may not be in
               possession of. 

                                   MR. FOX (CONT'D)
                         Let's talk about this project.

                                   AMBROSE
                         It's for my art history class.

                                   MR. FOX
                         I know.

                                   AMBROSE
                         You know?

                                   MR. FOX
                         I always know. 

                                   AMBROSE
                         Incredible.


              


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Reg Naveen

The Milk

Oh, expired my ass, milk.

With the school bus within minutes of arrival, Shyla didn’t know what she trusted less, the questionable milk, or the morning alarm clock that had been set to go off around dinner time.

Well, only one way to find out…

Before the test gulp could be gulped, Aiden burst into the room with yet another possible disaster looming.

“Mom, why didn’t the Elf on the Shelf move? Is this like how Marcus said that Santa wasn’t real? I feel like you’ve been lying to me about everything.”

The kid was too damn smart for his own good.

“No buddy, the elf did move. He just moved back before you got up. See? It’s not quite the same spot he was in yesterday,” she said, wiping the stuffed elf in dust that she hoped he wouldn’t notice.

“And I saw all of those toys in the closet.”

Goddamit.

“Aiden, you know you can’t trust Marcus. Or most of your friends, really. Remember when they told you that Star Wars was for babies? Their parents raised a pack of liars.”

Even his damn teacher got on to him because he likes wrestling, and “wrestling is fake”. You send your kid out into the world and their playgrounds are chaperoned almost exclusively by lions, pirates, and dancing knives.

“I’m going to be late again.”

“I know buddy, I’m sorry.”

“Can I have some milk please?” he said, already pouring from the carton on the counter.

“Sure buddy,” Shyla said, digging her nails into the marble counter, almost hard enough to leave claw marks.

The light bulb went off in her head with just enough time to take action. Shyla dove through the air, knocking the milk container out of Aiden’s hand. Time then slowed as the dairy shower coated most of the kitchen in a regretful wetness.

“Don’t drink that buddy!” she finally came out with, well after it was too late to mean anything.

Aiden licked his lips as the milk danced down the sides of his face.

“I’m not going to school today am I mom?”

“No honey. Let’s just go back to bed,” she said.

Aiden turned to head back to his room, as Shyla listened to the milk slowly dripping from counter to floor in shameful percussion.

“At least you can still count on gravity,” she said to herself, as she put the Elf on the Shelf inside the refrigerator.

 
Reg Naveen

Billy Wylde About Time

Let’s be real, most of us wouldn’t have a single clue what to do with a time machine if one showed up at our doorstep. That’s not even considering the fact that it would likely block you inside the house because it was parked within the door’s swing vicinity zone. Face it. Most of us would likely want to go back to that day in the lunch room, and not trade our cherries for a candy cigarette that wasn’t really candy. That taste just never quite washes out of your mouth, ya know?

It’d be nice to think we’d all do something noble with the opportunity. Go back in time, and kill Walt Disney before he kidnapped all of those kids in World War II to make them work on that damn boat ride. But we’re all mostly cowards wearing suits of armor made out of cardboard and dried tears. Nobody’s killing Baby Disney. Who kills babies anyway? Wouldn’t you assassinate a wrongdoer when they were doing their wrongs? I could see myself trying to explain to people of the past what the hell I was up to:

“Greetings people of the past times. My name is Billy Wylde and I have come from the future to kill this baby. Now, I know, this sounds mildly diabolical, but that baby is going to grow up and make the world a much smaller place. So you see, it’s an instance of “mildly diabolical” vs. “wildly diabolical”. Good day. And while I’m here, hey, be less racist.”

The past people would have stoned me to death quite presently.

I’d have to go back in time to correct going back in time and trying to convince a bunch of racists that I needed to kill a baby. And that would likely create a time pair-of-ox, and we’d all be greatly affected by butterflies or whatnot. So I just wouldn’t do it to begin with. And I doubt you would either. No offense. I’ve seen the way some folks look after their 8th hamburger. The regret on their faces is just dying for a time machine to fix that gastric distress.

We all have that hamburger based regret. Even if it’s to do with other things instead. Can I offer you this candy cigarette?

Mother Mary used to bring lots of girls home while my father was away. And by “away”, I mean, “off to war”, by which I mean he had another Billy, and another Mother Mary in another town like ours, but further away, and the people in question had other names. I bet they were named Marjorie, and Bartholomule or something. Can’t you just see it? The Old Man basically lived the life of a mirror, with reflections that were the same except for being totally different.

“It will all make sense one day, dear,” Mother Mary would say. “Your father is fighting a battle, you see, but it’s between his head and his underpants. And they’re both losing.”

I wish I’d held that against him back then. That stored up pain and confusion is just so enjoyable now as adult and all. But no, I used to blame Mother Mary and her lady friends. Mom would lie in bed with them at night and hold them until they fell asleep.

“Billy, if you can’t love a woman, the way she’s intended to be loved, my dear, I need you to promise me you’ll never drown her in loathing and disrespect. One mustn’t imprison the innocent,” she told me once.

“Is this why dad is gonzo? Did she drown him?” I likely wondered.

No. He had his reasons. I hope to get his answers one day. But today I know that Mary was a bit a lifesaver. Those girls she would always take in had a hard time at home. Hard as in, bruises and welts that were hidden from little boys and noisy neighbors. Like, Thanksgiving hard with a turkey for a fist, filled up with hate for stuffing.

There was one time I found her curled up in the bathtub, one of those fancy dresses she wore was spilling over the sides. So were her tears. She couldn’t protect them all, and I don’t think she could handle that.

“It’s all just so heinous. All of it. We can’t always be so solid, little one. There are times when we must melt. I’m not ashamed that you’ve found me in such a state.”

“I think we’re still in California, momma,” I said before crawling into the tub with her.

We’re not meant to know what we don’t know when we’re not meant to know it. Maybe I could go back and tell little Whilhelm to cut his mom some slack. She’s actually a kind of hero. The best thing I’ve got going for me is Lucy, and the claim to fame that I’m quite the llama-whisperer. Maybe I could go back and tell younger me all of this.

 “Hey, me in the past. Be nicer to your ma. And start referring to yourself as ‘Billy’ sooner, you rugrat. Good day. And while I’m here, hey, be less racist.”

“But I’m not racist at all, strange future man.”

“No, but still, be less than you are. There’s a battle between right and wrong. And they’re both losing.”

“Okay, strange man.”

I have the best conversations with hypothetical, Mini-Billy. He keeps me honest.

Hell, maybe I’d go back to my circus days and free that talking lion, and the two of us could sail around the world, solving crimes from our crime-solving ship, the “Rawr, Rawr, Rawr, Your Boat”.

But I won’t.

My cardboard armor is coming apart. I still have the taste of that not-so-much-a-candy cigarette in my mouth. I’m not the hero my Mother Mary is. I’m sitting here thinking about time travelling in order to kill babies and avoid eating hamburgers.

“It’s okay future man. It will all make sense one day, even if it doesn’t. Hey, want to trade those cherries?“
Reg Naveen

Friends and Rivals

          “Do you even remember the last time you were in the rodeo, you fool?” Margie asked.
The hands on the hips, the curl in the lip, Lou knew he was in a hell of a storm.
          “Now I knew you were going to jump out the chimney, but you need to hear me out. Actually, I don’t even care what you think, I’m riding again. But you should hear me out at least,” Lou said.
          “Oh really. Should I? Maybe I can fit some time in for that while you drive me down to the drug store to refill my, “Cant-deal-with-this-shit-again-lenol”.
          “It’s not bull this time, I swear it. Well, it is bull. Like, literally. I know the bull they want me to ride. It’s Amigo. You remember Amigo. He’s the only bull I’ve lasted eight seconds on.”
          “Well isn’t that incredible. Go and forget about the four seconds you could have lasted with me tonight, I’m going to bed.”

The Second Trial of Lattimus Virn

“One would think that something that is destined-to-be would be a little more fair,” Lattimus Virn shouted to his Other as they made their way through the tangling vines of Wenck that were pulling them in every direction.

“Perhaps fair doesn't always equal easy,” his Other returned.

“You're right, but fair shouldn't include strangling Wenck vines!” Lattimus concluded.

Upon the month of their birth in their eighth year, all of the children of Haumsnun face their Valoria, the life trials. Set in the maze of Guardeen, every child comes upon The 6 Trials of Valoria in the way that has always been. The Judges of Valoria set up 6 consecutive trials that each child may pass, or gain no welcome into adulthood. The fortunate few who pass are welcome to live their lives as they see fit. The unfortunate fade into The Vapor. This is the way it is done in The Wilting Lands, as it forever has been done, and shall be the way in which it is always done.

Lattimus Virn was never intended to pass The 6 Trials of Valoria. No child is. Instead, the series of puzzles, conquests, and life-or-death scenarios that play out in the giant maze that is Guardeen, is meant to vanquish the innocence of childhood, along with the children with it.

Somehow though, there are those who pass through the struggle, and somehow, life continues on.

Having barely survived the Wenck, Lattimus and his Other advanced to the Second Ring of Guardeen, the Vaurdisnockt, or The Darkened Tower. Perhaps Lattimus wouldn't even have survived that first trial if not for the presence of his Other, a spectral-like being created specifically by the Gods for each child, their only tool in the trials. Each Other was cast in light from the Gods, their take on a version of a child who would not survive childhood, far too innocent. It is then up to the child to seek guidance from a being who the Gods themselves don't believe have the wisdom to survive.

But Lattimus was quite fortunate to have his Other along for the journey, after the dangerous misstep he made in the first trial.

“Really good to have you back there, mate,” he said once he finally had the chance to catch is breath.

“I imagine. Let's just hope we can take some of that luck along with us, or we'll both be passed into The Vapor before the end of this,” his Other replied.

As the darkness faded to an even richer dark, and then still to a total blackness, the companions closed in closer together, Lattimus' shoulder passing straight through his Other's side. There would be no vision for a child at all, if not for the faint glow their Other inadvertently provided.

“This place just goes from one scary to another, doesn't it?” Lattimus asked, not particularly in need of an answer.

“THE DARKNESS IS THE LEAST OF YOUR CONCERNS,” a shrieking voice said, flying in from out of the blackness.

“WELCOME TO YOUR FINAL TRIAL, I AM YOUR JUDGE MADAME DEA. IF YOU SO CHOOSE, YOU CAN STEP TO YOUR LEFT AND FALL INTO THE PIT OF UNYIELDING DEPTH AND GIVE UP THIS HAPLESS VENTURE.”

Instinctively, both Lattiumus and his Other side-stepped to their right, though his Other was not hampered by the likes of gravity.

“Must you go on like that, like an angry harpy?” Lattimus said, recoiling.

“MY TONE SHOULD BE A WELCOMING TREAT, AND I'D IMAGINE YOU'D THINK SO, IF ONLY YOU COULD SEE THE TERRORS HANGING ALL AROUND YOU.”

This time, the companions took a giant step backward.

“YOU'RE WASTING MY TIME. YOUR IMPENDING DEATH IS AWAITING YOU ON THE LEFT, OR YOU MAY CHOOSE TO FIND THE SINGLE BIT OF LIGHT IN THIS ROOM, ATOP THE DARKENED TOWER. CHOOSE, BOY.”

“What light, what tower?” Lattimus shouted.

“FIND THE LIGHT, KEEP THE FIGHT. ENTER LEFT, WELCOME DEATH.”

And with that, silence ate up the dark.



“Do you see a tower, Other? Can you see anything that I can not?” Lattimus asked of his ghostly-friend.

“Not really Lattimus, the Gods did not intend for me to be a very worth-while guide, and thus my vision it seems is quite poor.”

“Figures,” Lattimus said, squinting his little-boy-eyes until darkness turned to further darkness.

Screams of children in peril took over the hall, from either below in the pit, or behind in the Guardeen, the light-less room robbing the pair of even further senses.

“We've got to get out of here,” Lattimus started. “We know we can't go left, do you think that means we can go any other way,” he asked his Other.

“I would like to think so.”



Having no vision, and with fear enough to cripple of Huffenhorse, Lattimus ventured into the dark, his Other wisely a foot or two advance of him. With every break in the floor, or obstruction observed by hand, the pair turned in another direction, always attempting to avoid making any “lefts”. Before long, a thing that must be the Darkened Tower was all that was before them.

“DON'T FOOL YOURSELF INTO BELIEVING YOU'LL MAKE IT LITTLE ONE. INNOCENCE DIES FOREVER AROUND YOU,” Madame Dea's voice stormed in, refusing to be forgotten.

“I have no choice Madame. I will not go left, nor will I be left behind,” Lattimus said with great vigor, his Other puffing up with courage, amplifying his glow.

“Other, what was that? You glowed incredibly bright just then. How did you do it?”

“Lattimus, I don't know! But I did, you're right! How could I do it again?”

“You're an innocent, Other, forever innocent really. And you would defend innocence as long as you could, is that correct?”

“Why yes I would.”

“Then what would happen if I threatened to jump into the left?”

“Don't you dare do that right now Lattimus Virn. Not while I'm here. No. You will not go left as long as I...” Other said, his words trailing off while his hue began to broadcast a tremendous light. The hall of The Darkened Tower illuminated, perhaps like never before, and it was quite true, innocence was dying all around them.

“Look!” Lattimus shouted, his eyes jumping from image to image.

Affixed to the hall's walls were pictures of happy children, safe children. Thousands of pictures surrounded the companions, smiling at them in full, joyful glow.

“All the smiles are lighting the candle in the tower! What does it mean?” Lattimus said.

“THERE ARE NO ANSWERS THAT WILL BRING YOU COMFORT LATTIMUS VIRN. I WOULD ADVISE YOU LOOK NO FURTHER,” Madame Dea taunted.

“Show yourself, you evil witch?! Where do you hide?” Lattimus screamed out.

“YOU WILL SEE ME. YOU WILL FACE ME WHEN YOUR TIME HERE IS DONE. YOU MAY HAVE LEARNED THE GLOW OF INNOCENCE, BUT BELIEVE ME, THE DARKNESS WILL RETURN AND YOU WILL BE LEFT ALONE.”

“I won't let you frighten me,” Lattimus returned, lying as best as he could.

With the floor now firmly in sight, and most importantly, the Pit of Unyielding Depth visible, Lattimus and his Other made their way around the now-lit Tower, and past the final obstacles before the exit.

The final picture on the wall was haunting.

“Other, is that...is that a picture of you, as a young boy?” Lattimus questioned.

“Why yes Lattimus, yes I suppose it is...”

The Third Trial of Lattimus Virn

Maybe it was the way the innocence hung on his 8-year-old face that saved him that day. Perhaps it was just luck. Lattimus Vern passed the third of his six trials by doing what any good young man would – he ignored the fact that he was the lessor. Most children don't know that the universe is mostly a wicked maze of monsters and gloom that they could, and likely should, succumb to at any moment. Lattiumus Virn, a typical human boy stood drenched in the shadow of his third judge, Watamo the Sullen and solved the unsolvable riddle.

“It is impossible to win, but winning is the only option. Escape your fate.”

Upon the month of their birth in their eighth year, most of all of the children who face their Valoria, their life trials, fail by the third tribunal, and their life is taken from them. The lucky few who pass are welcome to live their lives as they see fit. This is the way it is done in The Wilting Lands, and this shall be the way in which it is always done.

“I don't quite understand Master Watamo,” Lattiumus dug in, “how is one to succeed when there is no option of success?

The wised Barnabull raised his bushy eyebrows at the intriguing inquiry. So few children really grasped the reality of the riddle put before them.

“I suppose you wouldn't be satisfied if I told you everyone loses, but all are required to win,” Watamo bluffered.

“It just sounds like you're using different words to say the same thing, but you're not really saying anything, is that correct?” Lattimus pushed.

Watamo the Sullen, piqued by the veracity of the small boy before him, arched his enormous shoulders deep into his cage, his wings momentarily bending the un-bendable iron that provided both imprisonment and solitude.

“You're one of the good ones young man, do you know that?” he asked.

“I guess so, I'm just trying to figure it all out is all. None of you monsters make it easy.”

“Hmm. Yes, I suppose that is true. It's not a trial though if you're forever un-tested Lattimus. You'll be forever tested in The Wilting Lands. The world will punish you. It's creatures will hunt you. You yourself will likely concoct dangers in your every-day that will strike you down. And these perils are forevermore. Even when you've reached an age such as mine, and perhaps for you too they will lock you up in a manner to ward off The Unforgiven, to punish the un-punishable...even then you'll be tested. Our eternity is made up of each and every one of us, even The Being, looking up from the muck we're drowning in, and holding out a hand. Do you know what that hand says to anyone who might grab it Lattimus?”

“No sir.”

“That hand says “I seek salvation.” Trust in this though boy, even when we're pulled up out of those gutters of our own filth, there is no salvation to be had. Only more reaching.”

“So...we must live anyway. Is that correct sir? We must live even though we'll be forever seeking salvation?”

Watamo the Sullen, the aged Barnaball, sunk deep into his cage with tremendous relief.

“Yes Lattimus Virn. That is correct.”